It’s time for the 130th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.
Aliya Mustafina’s former coach went to Brazil, right? Why then is he never at any world or Olympic competition with the Brazilian team?
Alexander Alexandrov actually left Brazil following the 2016 Olympics, but yes, he worked with them over the past quad after losing his job within the Russian program. While he was at every meet with his team as the guy in charge, he preferred to be the man behind the curtain, and opted to not have a credential to be out on the floor because he felt it was better for the younger and less experienced coaches to be out there with the team, since they’re the ones who were going to be taking over in his absence. He planned before the Games to leave Brazil due to the economic and political situations taking hold, and I believe was hoping to come to the U.S., though I’m not sure if he did or not? I believe his daughter lives here as well, so it made sense for him as a move. But yeah, he ran the show behind the scenes but preferred to give younger coaches the international competition experience which is smart, to be honest.
Do you think if Kim Janas, who just retired after multiple knee injuries, had done the plyo leg exercises like Aly Raisman, could her injuries have been avoided? Why doesn’t Germany do plyos?
I mean, hypothetically, maybe? But just because a gymnast does plyos doesn’t mean her knees are naturally going to be rocks. For Aly, it was a combination of plyos and having basically the most solid body ever on the planet that helped her avoid injuries. I mean, I’ve seen that girl bounce out of passes and land square on her head and then get up like it was no big deal and walk away. Other girls who did something like that would end up in the hospital, haha. Aly is a machine. Plyos help keep her knees basically indestructible, but without the intensive plyo exercises, I still think she’d generally avoid most injuries due to how solidly she’s built. Like, some girls who do plyos break their ankles from doing plyos. Can you imagine Madison Kocian doing Aly’s regime? Plyos help build stability and strength, but they’re not a magic knee injury prevention exercise. Also, Germany probably does do plyos. Most gyms have some version of plyos built into their program. Don’t just assume a program doesn’t do plyos because they’ve had knee injuries in the past!
Are taller or shorter gymnasts at a disadvantage with the equipment like vault and bars? Could a taller gymnast request that the bars be set further apart? Do juniors compete on senior height equipment?
Shorter gymnasts have the advantage in the sport in general in addition to on each apparatus, though taller gymnasts can make it work for them. They can’t set the spacing of the bars width, but they can make the high bar taller if needed, and a couple do. The only ones at a real disadvantage are those who are so small they struggle with generating enough power to do big skills, but whereas height used to be like, the biggest detriment ever to a gymnast, most who are taller can accommodate their height somewhat easily. There are gymnasts around 5’7 in elite and 5’9 in NCAA doing the same skills as girls who are barely four and a half feet tall, so the sport can accommodate pretty much any height, though I’d say overall shorter gymnasts are at an advantage. And yes, juniors compete on senior height equipment. As a fellow short person, nothing was funnier to me than seeing Abi Walker at 13 trying to vault over the table. I’m pretty sure she was shorter than the vault. If anything, that apparatus is probably the biggest disadvantage to the extremely tiny gymnasts.
What is the NCAA competition format?
Generally the meets have one team against a second team, with the host team starting on vault and the away team starting on bars. They compete one at a time, six gymnasts on each event with the top five scores counting, and then they swap events with the bars team moving to vault and the vault team moving to bars. The same thing happens with beam and floor, and then the team with the highest score after four events wins, with a total of 20 individual scores counting into the total. Other times you’ll see three or four teams up against one another, so they have to rotate differently, but the six-up five-count totals are still how scoring is done.
Does the new four team, two specialists rule apply to MAG as well? That’s much more difficult for them with six events.
YUP. It’s gonna be hella difficult for them. Personally I think it should be done so that the number of people on the team should at LEAST be equal to the number of events…so MAG should have at least six and WAG should have at least four. But yeah, even a five-member MAG team was really hard to figure out. I can’t imagine what a four-man team will look like. Everyone’s just gonna have to get really good at everything if they want a spot. The new format heavily caters to all-arounders on both sides, but it’s definitely more prominent in MAG.
Who did you think were the most artistic floor workers from this past quad?
I loved Lieke Wevers and Eythora Thorsdottir in terms of artistry so much. I also loved a ton of the Belgians…Axelle Klinckaert and Nina Derwael especially. I LOVED Oreane Lechenault of France’s routine. I felt Flavia Saraiva’s floor was a little too cutesy for me in terms of the choreo, BUT she performed it brilliantly and it reminded me of Dominique Moceanu in 1996, so I include that as ‘most artistic’ because it wasn’t my thing but it ended up being perfect for her. I seriously cried at the Olympic test event when the crowd gave her a standing ovation. Oh, and Leah Griesser of Germany! I thought her floor was beautiful…and I also loved Rifda Irfanalufthi of Indonesia, the junior Juliane Tossebrø of Norway, I think that’s about it, but I’ll probably remember a bunch more throughout the course of the day.
MyKayla Skinner is only doing a DTY and double backs on floor at Utah. Do you think we’ll see her big skills in NCAA?
She’s actually doing a double double and full-in on floor, not double backs. For NCAA, this is HUGE difficulty. I don’t think a double double has ever been competed on floor from any woman in NCAA history, and her floor difficulty in general is elite-level even without her biggest skill, the Moors. “Only” doing a DTY when only a few gymnasts have done DTYs in recent years is kind of huge as well. No one’s ever gonna do an Amanar in NCAA. Maybe once to show it off or something, but Amanars week in and week out would kill your knees. MyKayla’s double was always much more consistent anyway, and it’s a better choice than her Cheng because she vaults it with both hands.
Can a junior gymnast get a skill named for her?
They used to but I’m not sure if they can anymore? I’ve heard mixed things about this in recent years, in regards to skills done at junior Euros and YOGs. I believe in the 2012 quad, the language said that the skill must be performed at a world championships, Olympic Games, or Youth Olympic Games, so I’m guessing YOGs are the only place right now where a junior can submit skills. I think Euros used to be allowed once upon a time? But yeah, now it looks like you can only submit at an FIG event (Euros are hosted by the UEG).
Do you think we’ll see any formerly retired U.S. elites come out of retirement with the new specialist format in Tokyo?
No. If anything, for elites from major programs, it will be more difficult to make it as a specialist than it has been in the past because the teams will be focused on all-arounders and at least one of the individual spots will go to an all-arounder as well. The only way a specialist is going to get a spot on a U.S. team is if she’s Simone Biles on floor, aka literally unbeatable and could still probably get bronze with a fall. Even this year, MyKayla Skinner was practically a lock for an Olympic vault medal and probably would have easily gotten silver or bronze based on how she looked compared to the international competition in Rio, but the U.S. program cares more about team results than individual medals. If you don’t fit the team picture in some way, it’s not happening.
How do gymnasts qualify for worlds this year, since there’s no team competition?
Any of the 150 or so federations registered with the FIG can attend worlds with up to four gymnasts. There’s no qualification process necessary, aside from each individual nation’s own internal qualification. For example, in Australia in 2013, they required that individuals reach scores of I believe 14.5 on events if they wanted to qualify, and because no one met that standard, Australia didn’t attend worlds. Funding can also be an issue. A federation with only enough of a budget to send gymnasts to one meet might have to choose between worlds and Euros, for example, and if they have gymnasts who are more likely to medal at Euros, they may choose to attend that meet instead of worlds.
Is Peyton Ernst competing this season or is she just on the team?
No, Peyton is still in recovery and is actually in Texas, not Alabama, at the moment. She will join the team in time for the 2017-2018 season, most likely as a redshirt sophomore.
Has a female gymnast ever won all six events (team, all-around, and the four EFs)?
At the Olympic level, no. The max at the Olympics is four medals, which Simone Biles tied this summer, becoming the fifth woman to do so after Larisa Latynina, Agnes Keleti, Vera Caslavska, and Ecaterina Szabo. I don’t believe anyone has swept at worlds, either, but sweeps happen somewhat regularly at domestic meets in smaller programs as well as in some friendly competitions.
How much were athletes paid on tour? Did they all make the same or were there headliners who made more?
From what I know, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and Gabby Douglas were at a higher pay scale than others based on their accomplishments, and there was also a bonus for medals, so Laurie Hernandez and the guys who won medals got those as well. I believe Laurie and the MAG Olympians got a bit more than the alternates and everyone else involved with the tour, but I don’t know what the difference was…I’m going off of what someone told me in the summer so anything could have changed since then but yes, there were definitely different pay levels based both on merit and on name recognition.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins